The Jackass Penguin (Spheniscus demersus) is commonly known as the African Penguin or the Black-Footed Penguin. It is a flightless bird only found off the South Africa coastline, living in colonies on 23 islands.

It is called a Jackass Penguin because it sounds like a donkey braying.

The Jackass Penguin is a small black and white penguin of about 60–70 centimetres (24–28 inches) tall, with a streamlined body. It has pink patches of skin above the eyes and a black face mask. The upper body is black and the under body is white. The under body is spotted with a black band.

The Jackass Penguin has black feet and unique black spots for each penguin.

The pink glands above its eyes are used for thermoregulation, to keep it warm in the cold waters, and cool in hot temperatures. The hotter the penguin gets, the more blood is sent to these glands which become pinker, and then the Jackass Penguin is cooled by the air.

Jackass Penguin

Jackass Penguin

The Jackass Penguin is an excellent diver, living on fish (such as pilchards and anchovies) and squid. The Jackass Penguin does not swim in deep water. It stays close to the coast, up to about 20 kilometres from the shore.

The Jackass Penguin has only one mate, so it is monogamous. The female lays two eggs on the ground in the sand or under bushes. Both parents incubate the eggs, which take about 40 days to hatch.

At least one parent guards the chicks until they are about 30 days old. After that, the chicks join a nursery, or crèche, with other chicks from other parent penguins. Both parents go to sea each day to look for food.

Chicks get their full feathers by 60-130 days. When they have their feathers, which are waterproof, they can swim in the sea.

The Jackass Penguin moults, which means that it loses its feathers and gains new ones. That takes about 20 days, and during this time it cannot swim. It spends most of its life at sea. It comes to land to lay eggs.


Jackass Penguin

Jackass Penguin


Jackass Penguin
Jackass Penguin

[Location of photographs: Tbilisi Zoo, Georgia and Berlin Zoo, Germany]

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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